Chicago Public Schools on Monday released its budget for the coming school year, showing how it plans to fill the remaining $300 million in its budget deficit.
This comes after the district announced layoffs of 1,000 teachers and staffers late last week.
The district says it has a balanced budget this year. Last year, CPS started out the school year with a $480 million hole that it expected the state to fill. But at about $5.4 billion, this year's budget is short almost $232 million when compared to last year.
The district has had a $1.1 billion deficit for a few years now, and over the summer, state lawmakers and the governor finally passed legislation providing CPS with more than $600 million. The district has made some of its own cuts, and now only has $300 million to fill.
To close that remaining gap, the district says it’s enacting a few management reforms and efficiencies.
For example, the district plans to redirect and reprogram title one and title two grant funds to help schools with the highest proportion of low-income students. That money had previously been held in reserve or controlled by CPS.
The district also has plans to centralize non-education functions, like accounting, so principals can spend more time on core instruction. It says it'll save tens of millions by centralizing the district's purchasing of goods and services to reduce the cost.
The district says it will also implement some scheduling efficiencies in both class and bus scheduling to save money.
But the bigger question here is how the teachers' contract fits into this budget.
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool says this budget still accounts for the tentative agreement the district thought it had with the union back in January, the one where the teachers' 7-percent pension pickup is phased out over the first two years of the contract.
The district says that contract will provide a net raise to teachers over the course of the four-year contract.
Though that deal failed, Claypool says he's confident the district can reach another one.
“The leadership has accepted it once before,” Claypool said. “Second, some things have happened since they did accept it, which is that Springfield … I think one of the reasons that we were told that middle management of CTU rejected it even though the leadership accepted it was they wanted to see what Springfield did. We know what Springfield has done. We know what those revenue assumptions are. Mayor Emanuel made good on his pledge to support restoration of the pension levy for teachers. So I think now we have shown good faith, taxpayers have shown good faith, Chicago, the mayor, Springfield, legislative leaders, the governor. I think, as all the editorial boards in town have said, it’s time for the teachers union to be part of the solution.”
This budget also increases capital spending by almost $160 million.
Later this fall, CPS says it will go back to the market to get funding for additional projects that will address overcrowded schools and deferred maintenance, but also upgrade the schools’ online infrastructure, air conditioning projects and play lots.
The district says it'll announce those plans later this year, but it'll be paid for with a capital improvement tax levy that the City Council passed last fall, which is expected to raise $45 million in fiscal year 2017.
CTU response to CPS plan
During his press conference, Claypool kept saying, “We had a deal once,” referring to the one that Chicago Teachers Union leaders took to their big bargaining unit at the end of January.
But the union says they never had a deal, and it has repeatedly suggested the city and the district come up with additional local revenue sources.
They see the 7 percent pension pickup, which would save the district about $130 million as balancing the budget on the teachers' backs.
So, CTU President Karen Lewis dropped the s-word again: strike.
“If the Board of Education imposes a 7-percent slash in our salaries, we will strike,” said Lewis. “Cutting our pay is unacceptable and for years, the pension pickup, as the board has called it, was part of our compensation package. This was not a perk; this was a negotiated compensation with the Board of Education. CTU has also been very clear: CPS is broke on purpose. And instead of chasing phantom revenue from Springfield and in between the seat cushions of Chicago taxpayers, Mayor Emanuel and the city of Chicago can show true leadership and guts if they would re-institute the corporate head tax, declare a TIFF surplus, and fight for progressive taxation that would pull in revenue from the uber-wealthy from our city and state. The rich must pay their fair share.”
Claypool has argued that the contract offer the district made back in January would've given the union a raise over the life of the four-year contract.
But the union's budget expert says the teachers would actually face a 1 percent pay cut, over the contract, before inflation.
The district plans to have hearings next week, and the union says it intends to be at those hearings advocating for local revenue sources and "educating parents" about how CPS is “broke on purpose.”
The Board of Education votes on whether to approve this budget during its regular meeting near the end of the month.
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Aug. 5: Declining enrollment and vacancies at other schools cited as Chicago Public Schools announces layoffs for hundreds of educators.
July 13: Though the school year has been rife with fiscal crisis, Chicago Public Schools’ principals now know that the cuts to their school budgets will not be as deep as threatened in recent months.
June 22: The dreary weather Wednesday morning didn't keep scores of Chicago Teachers Union members from taking to the streets and calling on the city and the school district to enact measures to stabilize the district's funding.